Thursday, October 31, 2002

Auntie Pinko explains why congressional Democrats appear to be so timid.

Auntie Pinko seems to reiterate this a lot, but we do need constant reminders: Democrats are not Republicans! We do not march in lockstep. We accord our leadership support based on how well they represent our principles and goals, not on how well they enforce top-down discipline. Without the kind of robotic unity that the GOP enforces, Democrats are highly vulnerable to divide-and-conquer tactics at election time, and the leadership knows this. They won't put progress toward a truly substantial Democratic majority at risk when the stakes are so high.

More Democrats with the rockbound integrity of Paul Wellstone would certainly help us, but money and powerful special interests have been working hard for many years to neutralize the appeal of such "outsider" politics. That leads me into the second reason for Democratic timidity in congress: the blaring voice of corporate and special interest money.

Interests with enough money to buy access to our politicians get face-to-face time with them, chances to explain, to offer bribes and threats, to make persuasive cases, to hold the elected official's constituency hostage to job loss or other blackmail. In order to drown out this kind of mega-loudness, citizens must counter-balance it with the sheer volume and frequency of their communications.

When a truly grassroots tide begins to lap over their shoes, elected officials will get moving, because they know that a sufficient number of votes will outweigh money in the final analysis. But convincing them that there are sufficient voters who support a particular position is not easy, because the big-money interests are adept at generating pseudo-"grassroots" efforts of their own, muddying the waters, and confusing the issues. However, in the end a real citizen initiative, if sufficiently powerful and widespread, will win through.
Dear Mr. Bush. It isn't how you tax it, its how government spends it. That dawg may hunt but it's barking up the wrong tree. But wait, don't let me confuse you with the facts.

Then why do many high-tax countries do so well? "Looking at taxes only is only one-half of the story," Mr. Slemrod said. "If government raised taxes but then spent the money poorly, the economy would grow more slowly."

Could it be that some governments spend tax revenue more effectively than others and may even promote growth in the process? Now there's a good question for Americans to ponder as they go to the polls next week.
Why private healthcare insurance is doomed. (courtesy of Instapundit)
It's time the religious establishment gets a breath of fresh air.
Life inside Iraq.
There are few of that share my opinion of the coming Bush War but it's nice to know that I am in good company.

The macho mouths whose combat experience most often consists of battles for talk-show ratings would have you believe that it takes great courage to bang the drums of war, whereas it is cowardly to speak the language of peace and diplomacy.

George McGovern is living proof that just the opposite is true.
There is good news on the horizon even if the days seem dark now.
The Democrats' basic stance of support for necessary government spending and environmental protection, along with respect for diversity and women's rights, is congenial to all these voters.

The fact is that the core Republican constituencies -- white men, rural voters, small businessmen -- are being slowly but surely overtaken by a Democratic coalition of women, minorities, service workers and a new class of college-educated professionals, one more concerned with social justice and less likely to reflexively vote by tax bracket than the old doctor-lawyer-executive elite.
The Motley Fools think Pitt Must Go and his friend Webster as well.

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Sounds like the Republicans are just as inept as they hope the Democrats are.
Drug policy begins a slow move into rationality.

A national shift from incarceration to treatment has the potential to save much more than dollars. More than 8 million of America's 75 million children have a parent or parents addicted to drugs or alcohol. Parental drug addiction fuels the foster care system; it feeds the juvenile justice system. It affects welfare caseloads, school performance and child health. And parental addiction is self-perpetuating: Up to 70 percent of the children of addicts become addicted to drugs themselves.
Does large-scale treatment work as an approach to drug addiction? We don't know, because we've never tried it. But as the casualties of our decades-long war on drugs continue to fill not only our nation's prisons but its foster homes, group homes and juvenile halls, there's plenty of evidence that the alternative has failed the children it was meant to serve.

Despite years of disappointment and betrayal, children of addicts will likely tell you they are willing to give their parents another chance. Three decades into a failed war on drugs, voters may finally be ready to do the same.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

So which is it? Is he so foggy that he can't get his facts straight? Or does he just lie? Remember, regime change begins at home.
Timothy Noah explains how conservatives will miss him more than liberals.

But let's consider a more calculating reason for the right to rend garments over Paul Wellstone. He was more useful to the right than he was to the left. That's because he made liberals seem further to the left than they really were. Wellstone himself stood to the left of everyone else in the U.S. Senate. But when conservatives wrote or talked about him, they usually characterized him not as a left-liberal, but simply as a liberal.
In Fifty-Fifty Forever Kaus argues that the 50/50 will be with us for a long time since the parties will adjust their platforms to achieve that goal even if the center of the electorate shifts. What this means to me in that the real battle is not party vs. party but is within the minds of the electorate itself. While parties will tend to move toward whatever direction gives them 50.0001% of the vote, some other influence needs to come into play to push the center of the electorate into better positions. If one wishes to provide real influence on the track of politics one must make one's case to the people independent of party ideologies. The ideologies will follow that movement but can not be expected to lead it.

Monday, October 28, 2002

Pitt must go. Never mind that he should have never been appointed in the first place. But now there is no doubt that he must go. The sooner, the better.

So it's not a small matter that Sarbanes has now gone personal and public, demanding the resignation of Harvey Pitt, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Other senators, who weigh their words less cautiously, called for Pitt's resignation long ago. But Sarbanes only says such things when the case becomes overwhelming.

This, unfortunately, is a fair way to describe the case against Pitt after last week's astonishing performance. In his bungled effort to implement the post-Enron accounting reform, Pitt has not merely been incompetent. He has not merely bowed to the accounting lobbyists whom he is meant to regulate. He has been very nearly dishonest.
Bush fiddles while Afghanistan burns.
The seeds of the current government's destruction were sown by the American-backed victory over the Taliban, and nourished by the Bush administration's failure to devote the necessary resources to rebuilding Afghanistan. Before the bombing ever started, those knowledgeable about Afghanistan warned that massive postwar reconstruction would be necessary to prevent the nation from once again becoming a terrorist breeding ground. They warned that ancient ethnic and tribal tensions, in particular between Tajiks and Pashtuns, could quickly rage out of control. All of their grim predictions of postwar anarchy are coming true -- and America is doing nothing.
The mouse won. Creativity loses. Don't be expecting this Congress to limit the power of entrenched interests to make (or extort) money. Or even to level the playing field for others.
Garfinkel proposes a long-term diplomatic solution to the problem of North Korea. It involves concerted effort on the parts of the 4 neighbor nations. There is much good to be said by this approach. What makes it work is that North Korea has no other options.

This brings on the question: is it at all possible to resolve the problem of Iraq in a similar fashion? If so, why the rush to war?
There are some simple and quickly-implemented countermeasures that could greatly reduce the impact of future DDoS attacks on the critical DNS servers.
Appears to me that this kind of device shows lots of after-market potential even in a crude form. But when built-in with sophisticated controls it could redefine the limits of automotive aerodynamics.

Thursday, October 24, 2002

In Texas we had a saying. There's two things you don't want to see: how sausage is made and how the legislature conducts its business. In the same vein we would probably rather not know that the internet was propelled into existence by the demand for porn. In Nigeria, the nation is being brought into the internet world on the back of the infamous 419 scam.

The wiring of Nigeria is being propelled by 419รข€”much as America's appetite for porn helped shepherd the commercial Internet through its infancy. AOL made it through its lean, early years only because of adult chat rooms and spicy picture downloads (which kept the meter running during the era of per-hour access fees).

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

How to use disinformation against terrorists.
For example, frequent arrests of reported terrorists (even if bogus) and "leaks" suggesting that those terrorists are cooperating with authorities, may cause sleeper agents to lose faith in their organization, and even to wonder if their supposedly "secure" channels of communication have been compromised. Given that terrorists are unlikely to know many of their number, authorities could even "arrest" actors who portray members of the terror organization, leak enough truthful details about the organization to make it sound plausible, then give the impression that they are getting far more useful information in secret interrogations. They could even leak false reports that actual members of terror organizations have been picked up and released, instilling further doubts within the organization - especially when those members deny that it ever took place.
Here's what we have to look forward to if the Republicans take Congress. Yeah. Scary, isn't it.
Stealth NMD. While we weren't looking the Bush administration got its funding for this stupid waste of money. How long must this country suffer these fools?

With the military moving toward a war footing with Iraq, the defense measure increases spending in almost every area, from weapons procurement to payroll. It includes a 4.1 percent pay raise for military personnel and almost all the $7.4 billion Bush requested to keep developing a national missile defense system.
What the Republicans really think.
Sources said a relatively senior Bush aide liked the memo and directed a young aide to forward it to Hispanic Republican activists; the memo was accidentally sent instead, without explanation, to a mostly Hispanic Democratic group. Still, that does not explain why the White House would distribute such an e-mail, even to its allies.

On Oct. 11, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer described the previous day's Iraq votes as "matters of conscience, and the president thinks it is entirely appropriate for elected officials in both parties to exercise their good conscience on behalf of their constituents."

Fleischer's briefing ended at 12:57 p.m. At 2:49 p.m., the White House sent out the memo. Titled "Can you believe this?" the e-mail proclaimed the "sad results" that "every Latino Democrat in the Congress voted against supporting the president." It suggested the lawmakers "lack something our brave young volunteers in our armed forces have plenty of" and declared them "out of touch with their constituency and out of touch with America."
Where do I invest in titanium dioxide? New uses keep coming out in the news including decontamination of water and air, high-efficiency solar cells, sunblock, cancer treatment, self-disinfecting surfaces, computer displays, and self-cleaning windows, paint, and other building materials.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Well said.
The ability of the Republican Party to cast itself in the public mind as the party of fiscal responsibility, let alone of fiscal restraint, is one of the most amazing accomplishments of modern politics. The propensity of otherwise intelligent people to fall for this lie, to accept unthinkingly the premise of this joke, is no less astonishing.
What the Republican party has cost this country so far. Now that's something of which to be proud.

Monday, October 21, 2002

The fifty-first State?
More on the shape of post-war Iraq.
The Daily Howler rides to the defense of truth in the media and Timothy Noah retracts.
This prompted a re-examination of the facts by Chatterbox, who will now concede that the matter was more complicated than Chatterbox previously knew. Gore's language may have been slippery, but it's unfair to conclude that he lied.
Somerby's argument was picked up by the leftist Weblog the Consortium and prompted an uncharacteristically coherent debate in the Chatterbox Fray. To Chatterbox's great surprise, Somerby and Co. turn out to be more right than wrong.
Is Iraq the New Japan? Pundits are beginning to look at the options for post-war Iraq even if the administration isn't.
Bush's 300,000 Phony Construction Jobs
Daniel Gross: But even if we assume the entire amount is in new construction (and it surely is not), $15.5 billion doesn't add up to anything close to 300,000 jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 6.552 million people working in construction in September had average weekly earnings of $738.66. Wages for 300,000 of them for a year would add up to $11.5 billion dollars. But wages are just a fraction of the overall cost of development.
Look at the tax cut. Simple math is not this administration's strong point.

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Well, the Bush-war resolution has been signed. For the purpose of argument I think this preemptive war is an act taken by a bunch of cowards. Sure we would like for our world to be secure and there are bad guys in power that we would like to stop.

But a preemptive war becomes the slipperiest of moral slopes. An act of war for mere political expediency carries a terrible moral weight. War is regrettable and should be carried out only at the extremity of self-defense. Basically in human intercourse it is the ability to defend oneself that assures peace. When one gives up or loses that ability violence or aggression becomes profitable to one’s adversaries. The surest way to stop terror is to effectively destroy terrorists. The surest way to contain the adventurism of belligerent nations is to demonstrate the willingness and ability to respond destructively against belligerent acts. Its only when they think they might get away it do nations commit belligerent acts. I think Saddam Hussein really believed that he could get away with the occupation of Kuwait. If we make it clear that a belligerent act on his part using nuclear weapons would be terminal for him and his regime, he would abandon them.

But we are cowards. We are unwilling to risk the damage that would come if Saddam were to actually use a nuclear weapon. Such an event would remove all impediments to wiping him out because it would be an unequivocal act of self-defense. Even our worst enemy could not criticize us. Furthermore, if we were able to show restraint by doing the job by not responding in kind, our moral reputation among nations would be enhanced. But instead of settling the responsibility of such a calamity squarely upon the shoulders of Saddam, our cowardice and fear leads us to preempt. We are in a sense saying, since we are afraid to allow Saddam to make the choice and we must make it for him.

While some may think that we are showing the world how tough we are, we are actually proving to the world how easy it is for us to cast aside our scruples when we are frightened. We made a mistake (as seen by hindsight) when we dropped our pressure on Saddam after he kicked out the inspectors. The Clinton administration did this but the opposition was too worried at the time about who was in his pants to care about the lapse in Saddam-control. Now we have a more frightening Saddam but little more hard evidence to substantiate that fear. And we have a choice. Do we wait for Saddam to show his hand while doing everything short of war to hinder his capabilities and find out more about them? Or do we initiate a military conflict?

With option 1 we continue to play by the rules of the international order and we bolster that this big guy on the playground can be expected to behave in an ethical fashion despite his overpowering strength. If Saddam does undertake any adventurism we would be able to use our strength against him without damaging international goodwill. Nations of all stripes will be more inclined to work with us on problems rather than against us because we demonstrate that we can hold our power in check. The downside to this is the potential havoc Saddam may wreak before we are able to take him out.

With option 2 we show that our nation is, indeed, a bully on the playground. We will do what we darn well please, when we please. Not only does this put all the responsibility on our shoulders when we do act, we must also take responsibility for those times when we don’t act. If we as a superpower have an appearance of playing favorites (such as with Israel) then we are legitimized as targets by those that oppose our clients. Not only that it demonstrates that we can’t be trusted to avoid our own adventurism when it suits us. We may feel more secure that way over the short term but the insecurity that other nations feel will make life more difficult for us in the long term. That insecurity will make it easier for our enemies to find places of refuge and support.
And regrettably we have chosen option 2.

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Gait recognition could identify humans at a distance Just walk this way!
Big Oil's MTBE Cover-Up: Where do you think the Bush administration is going to stand on this one? My money says that it will be "screw the drinking water, save the oil companies." Sad.
Keep the research going. Now that tea has been proven to be truly medicinal, I can't wait until they find something compelling about coffee.

Monday, October 14, 2002

Sometimes it's the little innovations that make all the difference.
As a counter to Asa Hutchinson there are credible publications like this one.
Davenport-Hines assembles strong evidence to support his belief that criminalization has created the modern drug problem. Indeed, history offers few examples of punitive legislation curing addiction or ending trafficking. He contends that because risk is closely tied to profit, enforcing laws against drug trafficking actually increases the economic reward for those willing to run an illegal business. The facts he cites bear him out: world coca production doubled between 1985 and 1996. Opium production tripled.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

While it may be true that Drug Legalization Doesn't Work, this article by DEA head, Asa Hutchinson does little to support that concept. He makes several assertions as if there were a clear connection among them...but there isn't. Basically Asa is mouthing slogans to justify his job.

Don't we owe our citizens more truth than that?
The real connection between al-Qaida and Iraq according to William Saletan
Bush tried to link Iraq to al-Qaida, but his attempts fell flat. He said that they both hate the United States, that some al-Qaida leaders have fled to Iraq, and that Iraqis have taught some members of al-Qaida how to build dangerous weapons. These things are true, but they aren't unique to Iraq. Bush also pointed out that Iraq harbors terrorists, but he ignored other regimes that are more guilty of this offense.

The connection between Sept. 11 and Iraq: One enemy whacked us, and Bush decided not to take any more chances with the other. He should tell it like it is and stop pretending they're the same enemy.

But truth is not part of the Bush lexicon.
Daniel Gross on the report of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee:
What hypocrisy! After all, Lieberman was a notable opponent of SEC-sponsored accounting reform in the 1990s. Perhaps the SEC could have done a better job ferreting out the fraud at Enron and other corporations--if only Lieberman and Thompson's colleagues had given the agency the resources it needed to do the job. When then-SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt suggested new rules to curtail aggressive accounting, senators explicitly threatened the agency's meager funding.

To paraphrase Pogo, "They have found the enemy and he is them."
The Senate will be voting soon on the Bush war on Iraq. Soon we will see whether or not the C.I.A. has it right about the downside of the war. The process of fixing the Saddam problem may cause the very disaster they are fighting avoid. Doesn't sound smart at all somehow.
Austrialian journalists can see through the Bush fog. Bush twists facts to fit, analysts say.
Many experts that advise governmental policy may very well be corporate shills. All think tanks are not created equal. Some are nothing more that fronts for corporate dollars. We should hold journalists responsible to properly characterize the sources of expert opinions. Too many institutions are getting treated as if they offered truly independent information when in fact they are nothing more than ventriloquist dummies for industry.
Despite all the hand-wringing on how many abused children go on to become abusers, some programs that simply help parents with problem solving have proven to reduce child abuse. We need more of this. It's not a panacea certainly but every step in the right direction is....a step in the right direction.

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

There is a promising new way to deal with invasive foreign species. It is to create and release in the wild males with a genetic alteration such that can only produce male descendants. And those descendants carry the same alteration. They are now trying to work out how many modified Asian carp it will take to eliminate the population in Australia.

Monday, October 07, 2002

14 Truths about the Middle East that the Arabs need to open their eyes and see.
Not only is the Bush administration gutting the scientific research infrastructure it is setting back the sex education and AIDS prevention efforts in this country.

"Compassionate", my ass.
LA District Attorney and Winona Ryder, -- Justice, Interrupted:
Americans have long argued that the famous enjoy an unfair double-standard, using their notoriety and wealth to walk away from serious drug, violence, and even murder charges with a rap on the knuckles and an autograph for the judge's wife. But it's equally true that the unscrupulous prosecution of someone famous can make a career, even when the charges are basically groundless. Think Ken Starr.

Steve Cooley may well go down in history as the guy who put a shoplifter behind bars by publicly mischaracterizing the evidence, diverting scarce resources, and refusing to plea bargain in good faith. Will it redeem O.J.? I doubt it. Will it make the world safer? No. Will it make a good movie? Probably not even on Lifetime.
How's it going so far? In Afghanistan, not so good.

In January a meeting of donor nations in Tokyo agreed to provide an unprecedented $4.5 billion to Afghanistan over the next five years.

As part of that deal a special trust fund administered by the World Bank was set up to help the government cover its annual budget, projected at around $460 million.

All grand promises which, ministers in the new government say, have yet to be delivered on.

With every passing day the need is ever more urgent and the warnings ever more stark.
Here's a proposal that will really leave no children left behind.

Instead of having children adapt to school, Levine urges schools to make accommodations for the rich variety of minds they face. Schools, he says, should reduce the amount of memorization required (many, many children have memory difficulties), not insist on speed at the expense of thoughtfulness, allow students multiple options for evaluation (not just traditional tests) and recognize that treating kids fairly does not mean treating them all the same way.
Maybe there really is a limit to the number of lies that the Republicans can tell and not be held responsible.
At least the Bush administration holds to a consistent pattern. Never mind how ill-advised or lacking in fundamental reality it is.

Saturday, October 05, 2002

Friday, October 04, 2002

Clinton speaks at Blackpool

Our politics are based on ideas -- a desire to increase opportunity and to strengthen community. And we know we are not always right, even though everybody hates to admit that, we are not. So we have to operate on the basis of evidence, and be open to argument. Their politics is based on ideology and power, and they don't like evidence and argument very much. My wife, the junior senator from New York, says that Washington sometimes seems to have become an evidence-free zone. They operate by attack. But at some point you've (got) to look at the evidence.

In my country evidence shows that their ideology drove them to adopt an enormous tax cut heavily tilted to wealthy Americans. I ought to be happy, I am one of them now! (Laughter) But I am not. Why? Because we adopted a tax cut in America before we had a budget, before we knew what our income was going to be, before we knew what our expenses were going to be, before we knew what our emergencies were going to be -- and Sept. 11 turned out to be quite an emergency. So we went from a decade-long projected $5 trillion-plus surplus to having it go away. We went from having the money when I left office to take care of the Social Security retirement cost of the baby boom generation, and half of the medical costs of them, to having it go away and using those trust funds to pay for tax cuts for people in my income group. Did the evidence support it? No. But the ideology did.

They declared war on all my environmental regulations, they even tried to relax the standard on how much arsenic we could have in the water. The Democrats stopped them, and besides, there was a very small constituency for more arsenic in the water in America! (Laughter and applause). So then they went on to other things. To try to make the deficit look smaller, they tried to refigure the accounting and requirements to raise the cost of student loans at a time when college scholarships were going up. The Democrats stopped them and besides they found that even among conservatives there was hardly anybody who thought that college ought to be more expensive in America. But their ideology drove them to it and I could give you example after example after example.

Hear, hear.
Kaus pokes at Krugman:
I'm no expert and unlike most Democrats I can't really blame the current recession on Bush. And I am of the opinion that anything the government does to affect the business cycle tends to hurt more than it helps because it takes too long. We end up with last year's solutions being applied to this year's problems and it rarely is a good match. I think the government should be fiscally responsible. It should tax the blazes out of the rich to get the money it needs and it should spend that money on programs that help all citizens become more productive and prosperous. It shouldn't spend money on pork or on corporate welfare that further enrich the wealthy.

Back to tax cuts. I don't think that structure of the Bush cuts have done or will do anything to improve economic efficiency. It would be better if tax policy were based on everyone paying their fair share, period. Deficit spending must be done carefully. The extra money should not just be broadcast on the wind in the hope that something good will happen. It should be targeted towards resources that are going to directly strengthen the economy. Grants or low-interest loans to industry that enable them to make their workflows more efficient, for example. Or better retraining for displaced workers. Spending cuts are in order as well. We should not be supporting failed or failing business models with government subsidies. If an agricultural or mass transit enterprise can not make it without government money it needs to improve its business model. We need to understand that when we subsidize something we are promoting inefficiency to some degree. In some cases there may be a strategic reason to suffer that inefficiency and that is well and good. But often that is not the case.

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

Finally, Kenneth M. Pollack makes the case for war with Iraq that the administration should have been making all along. Instead of trying to make political points, Pollack lays it out as it really is, unvarnished and uncomfortable. There are good reasons to intervene in Iraq but they are independent of the war on terra.

I still think it is quite likely that Saddam will allow full inspections. He has more to gain by playing nice than by being belligerent. In time the UN will be forced to lift the sanctions and the inspectors will go home. And then he will begin again with no one to look over his shoulder and with much more money in his pocket.